Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Local Recycling Laws - It's All About The Money

In this piece from The Freeman, Wendy McElroy points out the real motivation behind mandatory municipal recycling schemes: money. As she states:

[Cleveland] City waste-collection commissioner Ronnie Owens, who perhaps remembers the municipal bankruptcy of the 1980s, says, “The Division of Waste Collection is on track to meet its goal of issuing 4,000 citations this year.” In short the goal is revenue enhancement not perfect compliance. Indeed, the two stand in conflict with each other. Bloggers have widely speculated that the recycling scheme is an excuse to create noncompliance and thus maximize the payment of fines.

Bankrupt cities across North America will be watching the Cleveland experiment. At the first indication of success—that is, of revenue enhancement—debates on mandatory recycling will break out in a multitude of city council chambers. It is not enough to hope that the Cleveland experiment will be a debacle; it almost certainly will be one but, nonetheless, debacles are often profitable to those who conduct them.

Citing the British model, Cleveland, Ohio, is taking a giant step toward a similar scheme of compulsory recycling. In 2011 some 25,000 households will be required to use recycling bins fitted with radio-frequency identification tags (RFIDs)—tiny computer chips that can remotely provide information such as the weight of the bin’s contents and that allow passing garbage trucks to verify their presence. If a household does not put its recycle bin out on the curb, an inspector could check its garbage for improperly discarded recyclables and fine the scofflaws $100. Moreover, if a bin is put out in a tardy manner or left out too long, the household could be fined.


Cash-starved local governments will be watching to see if an American city as big as Cleveland can use RFID bins to increase revenues. The revenues would flow from three basic sources: a trash-collection fee that could be increased, as in Alexandria; the imposition of fines; and the profit, if any, from selling recyclables. The last source should not be dismissed. Recycling programs are not generally cost-efficient, but much of the reason is that collections need to be cleaned and re-sorted at their destination.

If households can be forced to assume these labor-intensive tasks, then selling recyclables—especially such goods as aluminum cans—is more likely to be profitable. (Perversely, the demand for volume recycling may hit the poor the hardest; in the wake of recession, it is becoming increasingly common for people to hoard their aluminum cans in order to turn them in for cash.)-Big Brother Is Watching You Recycle

Yeah, just like the Cash for Clunkers fiasco, which also had a supposed pro-environment aspect, these government scams end up hurting poor people (in the case of C4C, by removing cheap used automobiles from the market).


  1. Clearly one bad idea means that all future efforts are futile.

    Why don't you take this stance on anarchim and it's repeated failings, I wonder...

  2. I know it's a matter of time before this happens. I recycle every two or three weeks and I can't help but think one day the city will send me a notice asking in a creepily friendly tone, "we notice you don't recycle often enough. May we ask why?"

    Paranoid I know.

    And then it all ends up in the same sewage pile.

    And doesn't the mob run mob waste management anyway?

  3. And then it all ends up in the same sewage pile.

    Actually, the idea is that the recycled items are actually sold, and this is why they're... wait for the euphemism... "encouraging" it.

    You think it's only a matter of time before a pair of jack boots grace your doorstep, but I think it's only a matter of time before... well... it can happen.

    But honestly, if you live in Cleveland, I imagien this is low on your list of priorities. "Well, my city is dying, we lost James, it smells like New Jersey here, but what really sucks is rinsing out plastic jugs."

  4. Recycling is/should be low on the priority list if your city has other more pressing needs. Sounds like Cleveland is one of those towns.

    About Lebron, the fans there disappointed me. You want anger? Go to Ottawa of all places when Dany Heatley returned as a San Jose Shark and about 10 fans peacefully lined up (it's Canada you know) and threw his jersey onto the ice. It was pretty powerful stuff.

    And this is a government town!

    Anyway. Here's a secret: We don't recycle everything in my house. I hope David Suzuki doesn't end up ringing my door bell after reading this. What? It's possible.

    Paranoid...I know.

  5. I don't bother recycling anything. You can call me lazy if you want, but I prefer to call it a silent protest and act of rebellion.

  6. I should say I don't do any official recycling. I do reuse things, like those politically incorrect plastic grocery bags. I LOVE those (no reusable hippie bags for me!)


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